with John Weisman.
336 pages. $22.
Here's a tip: Don't get "Demo Dick" Marcinko ticked at you. Demo Dick -- born Richard -- is very tough. He likes to hurt people. He's good at it.
Mr. Marcinko, career Navy to the marrow, spent a couple of years as a high-school dropout enlisted man, transferred to UDT (frogman duty) in the early '60s, went to OCS, and was an early member of the SEALs -- the Navy's SEaAirLand commando force. He was probably the only American in the '60s who pulled strings to get into, not out of, Vietnam, where he had, shall we say, much fun.
He went on to found SEAL Team Six, which is the Navy's elite counter-terrorist commando unit. By all reports, it is one of the best special-operations outfits in the world. He built it in his own image, as does any visionary: tough, mean, violent, fast and quite ruthless.
He wanted it to be about stealth, stamina and careful planning, but mostly about killing, and "Six" as it is known in the argot, trained hard at that purest job of the professional soldier: At one point, it had an ammunition budget higher than that of the entire U.S. Marine Corps.
Alas, his essentially 19th century buccaneer's personality eventually got him in trouble with the button-down types that secretly govern Navy culture, and his tendency to tell off admirals didn't help him; after being unceremoniously retired, he was indicted in what appears to be some sort of scam that his book represents as a vendetta conceived and executed by the Navy's gentry to bring low this bodacious and unregenerate pirate. He spent time in prison.
Whatever the facts actually were or were not, Mr. Marcinko's autobiography is nevertheless a monstrously entertaining read. He has no doubts and makes no apologies; he happens to be one of those men whose essence Arnold Schwarzenegger can only pretend to evoke.
Mr. Marcinko never got to lead that Big Raid. Evidently "Six," had a spectacular war within a war in the Persian Gulf; it must have killed their founder to have missed it.